GRASSY NARROWS FIRST NATION UPDATE: November 24 — December 7

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CPTnet

December 28, 2002

GRASSY NARROWS FIRST NATION UPDATE: November 24 —

December 7

November 24, Sunday

Diana Epp-Fransen and Matt Schaaf leave Winnipeg for

Grassy Narrows First Nation (GNFN) — a 4-hour drive in

bad weather — to accompany a blockade of logging

trucks planned for the following day. Previous visits

from CPT since May 1999 resulted in a strong

relationship with the Grassy Narrows Environmental

Committee and led to an invitation to CPT to observe

direct actions to defend the community’s land base

against pulp and paper giant Abitibi Consolidated.

The previous week, community member Joe Fobister sent

a letter to Abitibi demanding a cessation of

clear-cutting operations on traditional hunting

grounds. Monday was set as a deadline for a response

from the corporation.

November 25, Monday

No response to Joe Fobister’s letter from Abitibi.

Community members plan a four-day ground blessing

ceremony to celebrate their traditions and prevent

logging trucks from hauling timber out of the forest.

Schaaf speaks with Ian Davidson-Hunt of the Taiga

Institute in Kenora. Barriers to aboriginal

communities who want to enter the forestry industry

include racism, the need for a lot of start-up

capital, a lot of experience and specific skills. The

Ontario government has for the most part excluded

First Nations from decisions about “forest

management.”

November 26, Tuesday

Epp-Fransen returns to Winnipeg on the bus. Schaaf

introduces CPT to the local teachers at a staff

meeting. The principal, Sister Irene Freeman, shares

that she plans to exempt the high school students from

classes to participate in the ground blessing ceremony

planned by community elders.

Joe Fobister learns that his letter is still on his

lawyer’s desk — Abitibi hasn’t received it yet. He

shows Schaaf satellite photos of the clear-cuts that

reveal vast areas of destroyed animal habitat to the

north of the community.

November 28, Thursday

Community members prepare for action, cutting tipi

poles and planning the ceremony for the coming Monday.

Schaaf slides off icy roads on his way to the nearest

city of Kenora and narrowly misses upending his truck

into a freezing lake. In town, former Mennonite

Central Committee workers Ren Amell and Carol Loeppky

share their long experience in the Kenora area.

People are afraid of losing funding to their

single-industry logging town because their provincial

representative is a member of the opposition. Member

of Parliament (federal representative) and Minister of

Indian Affairs and Northern Development (IAND) Robert

Nault represents financial security because he is a

cabinet minister.

At a previous meeting, Schaaf learned that Nault

recently broke process and walked away from

self-government talks with Treaty 3 (Northwestern

Ontario) First Nations, leaving native leaders

frustrated and empty-handed.

A friend who grew up in Kenora says, “White loggers

share a certain sympathy with native communities

because they know what it’s like to live under the

thumb of the company. They are both underdogs, but

there is a lot of racism.”

November 29, Friday

Schaaf accompanies community members as they scout a

location for their camp and blockade. While in the

bush, one man collects firewood for his stove at home.

According to the Ontario government, this is an

illegal act because the trees have been licensed to

Abitibi. Treaty 3, however, guarantees Anishanaabe

people access to the forest.

November 30, Saturday

Schaaf visits with Simon Fobister, chief of Grassy

Narrows. Fobister had not yet taken a position on the

blockade plans.

Roger Fobister, the only Grassy Narrows resident

employed by Abitibi, invites Schaaf into his porch and

shares that he will remain neutral during the blockade

and ceremony. He receives occasional tree-thinning

and tree planting contracts from the company, enough

to employ eight men from the community.

Former chief Steve Fobister, Sr. hopes to build a

sweatlodge and a teaching lodge at the blockade.

December 1, Sunday

Schaaf accompanies community members as they collect

firewood. They defy the Ministry of Natural Resources

to exercise their treaty right to live off their

traditional land.

A backhoe clears a space in the bush where the camp

will be set up.

December 2, Monday

Camp organizers send a press release to the media and

pitch camp — a trapper’s cabin and a tipi.

December 3, Tuesday

A school bus drops off about 30 high school students

and their teachers at camp. The youth stand and lie in

the roadway as the first logging truck approaches, and

the driver is turned back. He reacts angrily but

leaves the scene peacefully.

Community members allow loggers to leave the forest,

but block any trucks headed to pick up more trees.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) arrive and announce

that as soon as the sergeant arrives from Kenora,

people must leave. The students joke with the officers

and soon everyone is getting along.

Logging contractor Jim Ambs arrives and fumes, “This

is just trouble. I just go where I’m told. Talk to the

company.” Community members angrily tell Ambs that his

logging operation is illegal and ask him to leave.

Sergeant Bob Reid of the OPP arrives and announces

that the protest is legal under the Canadian Charter

of Rights and Freedoms. As long as the demonstration

remains peaceful, the police will not intervene.

December 4, Wednesday

Schaaf becomes sick while sleeping at camp and returns

to the community. The next morning, he learns that the

loggers sent one pickup truck as a scout.s The driver

turned back before reaching the blockade and no

haulers attempted to use the road.

The Band Council of Grassy Narrows announces its

unanimous support of the blockade. Treaty 3 Grand

Chief Leon Jourdain visits the camp to lend his energy

and encourage the youth to endure the cold weather so

that their children and grandchildren will have a

forest in which to thrive.

CPT reservist Korey Dyck (Winnipeg) gets to camp.

Schaaf and Dyck share a meal of fresh venison with

some of the teachers.

December 5, Thursday

Full-time CPT member Scott Kerr arrives from Chicago

with Chris Brown.

Dyck returns to Winnipeg.

December 6, Friday

Brown remains at the camp while Kerr and Schaaf make

the one-and-a-half-hour trip into Kenora for supplies.

Returning at about 7 pm, their car rolls into a creek.

Both escape unhurt and emerge soaked to the skin in

the minus 15 degrees Celsius weather, but are picked

up almost immediately by the chief’s son on his way

back to Grassy Narrows.

December 7, Saturday

All quiet at the blockade. Kerr and Schaaf salvage

belongings from the wrecked car.

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